A local grocery retailer has organized a fundraising effort to benefit the victims of last week’s chocolate factory explosion in West Reading, Berks County; one of the deadliest explosions to occur in the U.S. in recent years and the worst disaster in Pennsylvania in recent memory.
The GIANT Company–which has a number of stores in the Reading area–announced March 29 that through April 9 it will donate 50 cents for every Palmer Easter candy and chocolate item bought, up to $25,000, to the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund that has been created.
“The GIANT Company is deeply saddened by the tragic events impacting the West Reading community and R.M. Palmer team,” said John Ruane, GIANT Company interim president, in a news release. “While nothing will make up for the loss experienced, we hope to grow community resources and support in partnership with those we serve. Together, we can help uplift a neighborhood in need one purposeful act at a time.”
The March 24 explosion at R.M. Palmer Co., which manufactures some of the most popular Easter candy sold in stores throughout the region, claimed seven employees’ lives and injured many others. Its cause remains under investigation by local, state and federal authorities, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Channel 69 News reported Wednesday that the NTSB has taken the lead in the investigation, which could indicate that federal authorities are focusing on a natural gas pipeline as a possible cause. Pipelines are considered a form of transportation because they convey products.
The news station reported that although the NTSB “went as far as calling it a ‘natural gas explosion'” in a tweet, local officials and state police pushed back against that characterization, as no cause has yet been identified.
The NTSB has opened a safety investigation into the March 24 natural gas explosion and fire at the RM Palmer Company Chocolate factory in West Reading, PA.— NTSB Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 28, 2023
UGI, the public utility that supplies natural gas to customers in West Reading and throughout much of eastern Pennsylvania, issued a statement about the explosion on Tuesday in which it expressed its condolences to the families and community impacted by the disaster.
“UGI Utilities knows that it is the Company’s responsibility to safely and reliably serve our customers,” it said. “We take our responsibility seriously, and we are working with local authorities and state and federal agencies to determine the cause of the incident on March 24, 2023.”
UGI also announced that in partnership with West Reading Borough Council, the United Way of Berks County and Berks County Community Foundation it has created the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund.
“This fund will help aid members of the community who were impacted by the explosion at R. M. Palmer,” the company’s statement said. “To support the recovery effort, UGI will be making a donation of $100,000 to the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund.”
The R.M. Palmer Company also issued a statement, published on its website, in which it expressed gratitude for the recovery efforts of first responders and pledged to “continue to coordinate closely with local and national agencies.”
To donate directly to the fund, visit the Berks County Community Foundation website or send a check to Berks County Community Foundation, 237 Court Street, Reading, PA 19601, noting “West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund” in the memo line.